Matt Taibbi has some unkind things
to say about the professional stenographers' (er, I mean journalists') double standard on unnamed sources:
It's funny. The only time anyone thinks to blast the use of "unnamed sources" is when the mistake occurs in that rarest of phenomena in mainstream journalism: the dissenting piece of investigative journalism.
The reality is that unnamed sources are used about 10,000 times a day by the more patriotic and upstanding members of our working press, only they're not used to wonder about the goings-on at places like Guantanamo Bay. Instead, they're used to kiss ass and make icons out of morons....
No one bitched at [Newsweek] on January 24 of this year, for instance, when reporter Richard Wolffe wrote a slobbering cover profile on the "Bush you don't know" that was filthy with unnamed sources. An example from the text:
Bush's leadership style belies his caricature as a disengaged president who is blindly loyal, dislikes dissent and covets his own downtime. In fact, Bush's aides and friends describe the mirror image of a restless man who masters details and reads avidly, who chews over his mistakes and the failings of those around him, and who has grown ever more comfortable pulling the levers of power.
This, just months after Bush himself admitted during a presidential debate that he really couldn't remember any mistakes that he'd ever made, and after Bush himself admitted that he doesn't even read newspapers, let alone books. (During the 2000 campaign, Bush carried around the same copy of a biography of Dean Acheson for six months in an effort to convince reporters he was a reader.) Yet Newsweek allows Bush aides to insist, as unnamed sources, that Bush agonizes over his mistakes and is an "avid reader."
In another part of the article, Wolffe quotes an unnamed "Republican senator" on the matter of Bush's command of detail:
When he wants to be, he's a real stickler for details," says one Republican senator. "When he calls you to talk about a bill, he knows the nitty-gritty. You don't get the sense he's been reading the Cliffs Notes guide to an issue.
So you think Newsweek didn't work hard enough to confirm the Quran-toilet story? How hard do you think Richard Wolffe worked to confirm that George Bush "knows the nitty-gritty"? I bet he burned up the phone lines working on that one.
They just throw this stuff out there week after week, and no one ever complains about it. That's because kissing ass is not a crime in America, while questioning the government often is. At least, you better not screw it up if you try. God help you then.